Efforts by the Chinese government to slow down commercial real-estate loans on multifamily properties are doing little to curb demand.
This year regulatory authorities in China issued a spate of new rules to slow down speculative home purchases. The new rules raise the minimum down payment required for mortgages and limit the number of apartments that each citizen or family can own.
However these new regulations are simply raising prices on multi-family apartments in many regions. Price increases that fuel speculation that home values will only continue to climb. This speculation has led to a wave of investment property purchases throughout China. Many speculate that the new restrictions will be lifted in the near future as the government attempts to spur economic growth. Should the multi-family market encounter any trouble there is a general consensus that the government will take drastic steps.“The government will spare no effort to make sure there are no big swings in the property market,” said Ni Pengfei of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.
The explosion in the multi family market stems from the Chinese governments increased reliance on household borrowing in order to fuel growth. As a percentage of GDP Corporate debt has reached an unsustainable 164 percent. Recently the government turned to household borrowing as a way to prop up growth. Early in 2016 the government relaxed its housing policies due to the economic slow down in China. President of the Peoples Bank of China Zhou Xiaochuan declared that residential mortgages were “relatively safe.” Mortgages for new apartments grew by 10 percent year over year immediately following his comments. Chinese households once carried relatively little debt, which once gave some assurance that the housing boom would not result in a wave of catastrophic defaults. But household debt has now peaked at 42 percent of GDP. Notably household debt in the US stood at 85 percent prior to the housing crisis and Chinas household debt may be rapidly approaching a similar number.
Commercial real estate loans and lending practices are fundamentally different in China easing some fears about an impending crisis.
Chinese Home buyers must still make a substantial 30 percent down payment on any mortgage they take out. In contrast the lending environment prior to the Great Recession was characterized by the issuance of mortgages with little to no money down. The incentive to expand lending to unqualified borrowers is lower too, as Chinese lenders have few ways to securitize and sell off large pools of loans. Many US households were over burdened by home equity loans prior to the recession. This type lending has not caught on in China.
Commercial real estate loans used to finance the construction new apartments are have become essential to fueling Chinas growth.
Activity related to the construction of new apartments now accounts for a third of Chinas economic activity. Any slow down in this sector could cause regulators to lift safeguards in order to boost the economy. Moodys states that 68.8 percent of Chinese household assets consist of real estate. A decline in home values would eat away at the assets of many Chinese citizens. There is the further danger that half of recent sales were for the purpose of investment, according to Ni Pengfei. Should these investments falter any related mortgages will likely default. If that happens the US will no doubt feel the effect as the economies of both nations depend so closely on one another.
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